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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / April 15, 2001

Page 4 of 8

Continued from page 3

Included are memoranda that represent the daily espionage work of men like Norwood Francis ''The Judge'' Allman, who made a fortune in Shanghai running two newspapers and acting as legal counsel for such international businesses as Coca-Cola. In a matter of months, he went from power player in the Pacific, to Japanese POW, to head of an OSS Far East division.

He was an example of a brief period when Donovan, a New York lawyer and Medal of Honor-winning hero from World War I who was nicknamed ''Wild Bill,'' made intelligence a Cirque de Soleil of brainy eccentrics from all walks of life.

''The OSS was a collection of oddballs,'' says Maochun Yu, author of ''The OSS in China: Prelude to the Cold War,'' and a history professor at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. ''People who would not fit into the traditional Army and Navy structures. The OSS in China in particular was a potpourri of people. It wasn't even in the mainstream of the OSS. Julia Child was in it [in China].''

Building a network

After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Donovan was compelled to get a Pacific program up and running quickly while still assembling the parts of his European outfit.

Donovan leaned heavily on the expertise of Cornelius V. Starr, who began selling insurance in the Chinese city of Shanghai in 1919 and built a global empire that he eventually named the American International Group, which today is the most profitable insurance company in the world.

Donovan and Starr got their first crack at some of the savviest Americans in occupied Asia when Japan and the United States agreed on their first exchange of civilian nationals. The OSS sent an expert Asia hand armed with a briefcase full of questionnaires down to New York harbor to greet the first batch of repatriates, who arrived in August 1942 aboard a Swedish ship called the Gripsholm, the first of several such trips it would make through 1944.

Arriving from Korea in 1942, 59-year-old mining engineer Frank Smith told the OSS about how the Japanese were furiously exploiting Korea's large quantities of tungsten, copper and lead, and were ramping up steel and iron production, relying heavily on forced labor.

Smith, who had lived in Korea for 30 years, pinpointed places where the Japanese were making gunpowder, munitions, and chemicals, including ''a large new factory of the Japanese Chemical Industrial Co.'' that was producing ammunition and magnesium.

That was top-notch intelligence, Weinberg says. ''Tungsten is a terribly important material used in steel making, in making warships, tanks, artillery, all manner of military hardware. If you had something about steel production, that is very important information.'' Such details may have been used to help target US bombers or covert operations.

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